Free speech rally at UC Berkeley draws hundreds, moves to People’s Park

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Mark Unger /Staff

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Right-wing activists, police and counterprotesters converged in People’s Park on Tuesday afternoon in response to a rally organized by anti-government group Patriot Prayer.

Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson joined Daly City resident Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman on Sproul Plaza about 1:45 p.m. Chapman, a self-proclaimed “American nationalist,” was previously arrested at a March 4 rally in Berkeley on suspicion of felony assault. By 2 p.m., approximately 50 people had joined the pair on Sproul Plaza, according to a Nixle alert from UCPD.

After leaving Sproul Plaza, Gibson and some of his supporters moved toward an “empathy tent” that was set up on the corner of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue. Fights and arguments broke out as Gibson fielded questions from the crowd. Workers in the empathy tent encouraged peaceful resolution as protesters and counterprotesters pushed, elbowed and shouted at one another.

“Dialogue, listening, dialogue, empathy,” urged one worker.

Counterprotesters and members of Patriot Prayer began moving out of the area of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue about 2:20 p.m. The group, along with several dozen law enforcement officers, marched south down Telegraph Avenue. Members of Patriot Prayer chanted “U.S.A.,” while counterprotesters responded with chants of “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.”

“I’m a moderate,” Gibson said, when asked whether his group aligned with the views of the “alt-right.” “I’m trying to bring right and left together.”

Police broke up conflicts between protesters and counterprotesters throughout the day. Members of activist group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, were among the counterprotesters present at the rally.

The crowd reached People’s Park about 2:40 p.m., and UCPD released another alert urging community members to avoid the area.

Daryl Tempesta, a supporter of President Donald Trump who attended the event, said he appreciated the focus on freedom of speech.

“That’s the kind of thing that creates parity,” Tempesta said.

Cal Berkeley Democrats President Caiden Nason, however, said he did not agree with Patriot Prayer’s message.

“This is a joke,” Nason said.

At People’s Park, Chapman spoke to the crowd at large, stating that he believed there was a “war against whites” in the United States. Chapman also said he believed the rally was “another victory in the battle for free speech.”

Berkeley Police Department made at least three arrests as of press time, according to the department’s Twitter feed. BAMN organizer and Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School teacher Yvette Felarca was arrested on charges of battery and resisting arrest. Las Vegas resident Ricky Monzon, 20, was arrested on suspicion of carrying a banned weapon.

Eddy Robinson, 47, an Oakland resident, was arrested in connection with participating in a riot and resisting arrest.

The park began to clear about 3 p.m., as police, Patriot Prayer supporters and counterprotesters moved back toward campus.

Staff writer Olivia Nouriani also contributed to this report.

Contact Sam Levin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @SamJLevin.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that Daryl Tempesta is a supporter of Patriot Prayer. In fact, he supports the focus on freedom of speech.